Orphaned Kit Tyler had found life with her rich grandfather in Barbados to be wonderful. But her grandfather’s death revealed that their life of tropical splendor was nothing more than an illusion. In debt and desperate, the 17-year-old had very few options.
Running away from an arranged marriage to a much older man, she and her many trunks of expensive clothes board the Dolphin on a voyage to Wethersfield, a Puritan village in Connecticut. She goes to meet her Aunt Rachel, her Uncle Matthew and their daughters—the only relatives she has.
While traveling, she catches the eye of John, a kind, poor student on his way to Wethersfield, and Nat, the captain’s son, who teases Kit about her aristocratic upbringing. She truly enjoys being at sea, but even before she steps foot on the New England shore, she is accused of being a witch by yet another passenger heading to Wethersfield.
Karen Cushman’s The Midwife’s Apprentice draws readers into the past with the story of an unwanted girl making her own way in the perilous Middle Ages.
In The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, Josh and his brother JB are the stars of their school basketball team. The sons of professional baller Charlie "Da Man" Bell are a force to be reckoned with. That is fine when Josh and JB work together, but trash talk, a family crisis, and a new girl is about to come between these two, making teamwork nearly impossible.
No teacher ever told Newbery-winning author Betsy Byars she should be a writer when she was growing up. Young Betsy Cromer, nicknamed “Cro,” was a wide-awake kid and into most everything, but not writing. Part of the time her family lived in the country, which was heaven for Betsy as she was surrounded by nature. When she got older, she was interested in nature of a different kind—boys!
Award-winning author Sharon Creech wove a lot of her own life into her books for young adults, including her first one, Absolutely Normal Chaos. Written as a journal as are many of her novels, what strikes a reader immediately are her humor and casual way of storytelling. Everything is told offhand, as if it doesn’t really matter—just a 13-year-old chattering. Until what happens does matter and things get serious. That’s when readers are grateful for the humor, and having a strong if strange family really becomes important.
"In other worlds I used the imaginary kingdom not as a sentimentalized fairyland, but as an opening wedge to express what I hoped would be some very hard truths. I never saw fairy tales as an escape or a cop-out....On the contrary, speaking for myself, it is the way to understand reality."*
Lloyd Alexander wrote many adventure stories for young people, including the wonderful Chronicles of Prydain which follow the adventures of brave, young Taran, who proudly holds the title of assistant pig-keeper, the fiery, quick-witted Eilonwy, shambling man-beast Gurgi, and Fflewddur Fflam, a teller of tales, mostly tall ones. In The Book of Three, these unlikely heroes are on the run from dread forces that have more personality and are therefore more terrifying than Tolkien’s Sauron.
Our society is chaotic, violent, and often disturbing to grow up in. Wouldn’t it be much better to grow up in a safer, more secure place? How much of the unease and disorder of modern society would you sacrifice to create a more peaceful and harmonious civilization? The Giver, by Lois Lowry, asks this difficult question, and creates a dystopia both serene and haunting for its lack of emotions and empathy for its citizens.
The guy hanging car doors at the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, for 13 years was taking home a decent wage, but he wanted much more out of life than that. There was another side to Christopher Paul Curtis—a creative side. On his job breaks, he kept a journal and wrote stories. The first of those, he said, were “just plain bad,”* but he got better. A lot better. His second wife encouraged him to keep writing, so he quit the job at the plant, moved the family just a little way to Canada, took other jobs that were less mind-numbing, as well as courses in creative writing. Ten years later, his first book, The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, won the Newbery Honor, the Golden Kite Award, and the Coretta Scott King Award.
Despite being thought of primarily as an author of adult-oriented literature, Neil Gaiman has published several young adult titles over his career, including MirrorMask, M Is for Magic, and The Books of Magic. One of his best loved YA titles was Coraline, published in 2002. Coraline’s imaginative plot, memorable characters and evocative illustrations by Dave McKean made it a modern classic of YA literature, and an excellent film adaptation was released in 2009. Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book follows in the footsteps of Coraline and presents another vivid journey into a richly imaginative fantasy world.